Eurozone remains in much worse shape than some official statistics might suggest

On May 11, 2017, the European Central Bank (ECB) released its third Economic Bulletin for the year, the release date comes two weeks after each of their monetary policy meetings. In Issue 3, there is some interesting analysis on both the state of youth unemployment and the degree of labour market slack in the Eurozone. It doesn’t paint a very rosy picture despite the constant claims that the Eurozone is recovering well. The reality is that while the official unemployment rate is bad enough (still above the pre-crisis level and stuck at around 9.5 per cent), the broader measures of labour slack indicate that around 18.5 per cent (at least) of the productive labour resources in the Eurozone are lying idle in one form or another. The broad slack has also risen during the crisis in most nations – particularly underemployment. In other words, the Eurozone remains in much worse shape than some official statistics might suggest. And we are nearly a decade into the crisis (and so-called ‘recovery’).
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    Posted in Eurozone | 1 Comment

    There is more to the Job Guarantee literature than a few blog posts

    I have noticed a new phenomenon – a sort of new myopia – has emerged as the blogoshphere has expanded. The knowledge set that people think they are empowering themselves with becomes rather constricted – sometimes to a selection of blogs they may have read, sometimes even to the last blog they read on a topic. So we get a range of views and prognostications emerging – held out as expert commentary in many cases – upon the basis of perhaps just a few blogs having been read. As a long-term blogger, I also see this syndrome in the comments section of blogs. Someone new turns up it seems having read the latest offering from someone and launches into an array of criticisms which have been previously addressed but the commentator hasn’t bothered to read. The point is that research is a lengthy process and opinions should only be formed with conviction when one is convinced they have read all the major offerings in the area of interest and considered the evidence base. Which brings me to the real point. Before I wrote blogs I had generated 25 or so years of academic research material – in journal articles, books, book chapters, commissioned reports – hundreds of items of work. That is standard fare for an active researcher chasing competitive grants. That is where one’s contribution to ‘knowledge’ (as far as it is) is to be found. I only started writing blogs as a way of promoting Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) to a broader audience that would never read my academic work. I think that has been a successful strategy. But it has also created this ‘new myopia’. People think that the knowledge set available lies exclusively in blogs. It doesn’t. My blogs cut corners in writing style, referencing, and leave things unsaid that a more formal treatment would cover. The aim of the blog is accessibility and to provide an introduction to ideas which will encourage readers to delve further and arm themselves with deeper knowledge so as to promote informed progressive activism. A case in point is recent deliberations about one of my pet topics – the Job Guarantee.
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      Posted in Job Guarantee | 17 Comments

      Humans are intrinsically anti neo-liberal

      Over the course of my academic career and even outside of that I have often been regaled with the claim (as if it is science) that capitalism is the ‘natural’ system for humans because our nature biases us to competitiveness and selfishness. So Marx’s famous epithet in his Critique of the Gotha program (1875) – “from each according to their ability to each according to their need” – was dismissed as being against our natural tendencies – a denial of basic human nature. It then followed that planned economies and economies where governments intervened strongly to ensure equitable distribution of opportunities and outcomes, was in some way contrived and would surely fail because our human nature would find ways to thwart such interference. This has been a compelling and dominant narrative over the last several decades as neo-liberal think tanks, biased media outlets, and politicians from both sides of politics (homogenised into a common economic mantra) reinforced it continuously in print, spoken word and policy. We shifted from living in societies where collective will and equity was deemed important organising principles to living in economies where every outcome was in the hands of the individual – including mass unemployment – and the concept of systemic failure that could be ameliorated by state intervention was rejected. State intervention was cast as the devil. It is no surprise that economic outcomes for a rising proportion of the population deteriorated as we shifted from society to economy – from collectivism to individualism. It turns out that the research into human nature, motivation, decision-making etc largely rejects the ‘competitive selfish individual’ narrative. We are intrinsically cooperative and care about equity. Our basic propensities appear to be collective and cooperative. Funny about that.

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        Posted in Debriefing 101, Economics | 43 Comments

        The Weekend Quiz – May 20-21, 2017 – answers and discussion

        Here are the answers with discussion for this Weekend’s Quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of modern monetary theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.
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          The Weekend Quiz – May 20-21, 2017

          Welcome to The Weekend Quiz, which used to be known as the Saturday Quiz! The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention or not to the blogs I post. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.
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            Australian labour market data – mixed signals with underemployment rising

            The latest labour force data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics – Labour Force data – for April 2017 shows that while employment rose by 37.4 thousand, full-time employment fell by 11,600 and monthly hours worked fell by 0.12 per cent. Underemployment rose by 0.1 points. The employment growth did outstrip the underlying growth in the population and with the participation rate steady, unemployment fell by 19,100. The unemployment rate fell by 0.2 points. Certainly the employment growth was modest compared to last month. Broad labour underutilisation remains high at 14.3 per cent with unemployment and underemployment summing to 1,836.7 thousand persons. The teenage labour market also showed some improvement although full-time employment fell. It remains in a poor state.
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              Posted in Labour Force | 1 Comment

              Real wages now falling in Australia – failing economy and failed policy

              In the most recent – Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings: 2016 provisional results – published by the British Office of National Statistics on October 26, 2016, we learn what we had suspected for some time – the purchasing power of workers’ wages are now lower than before the GFC. Neo-liberalism at work in Britain. Today (May 17, 2017), the Australian Bureau of Statistics released its latest – Wage Price Index, Australia – for the March-quarter 2017. For the fifth consecutive quarter, annual growth in wages has recorded its lowest level since the data series began in the December-quarter 1997. Nominal wages growth in Australia was just 1.9 per cent in annual terms below the annual inflation rate for March of 2.1 per cent. So real wages declined even though productivity growth remains positive – which means that the profit share in national income rose again as real unit labour costs plunged. But employment growth also remains flat. This represents a major rip-off for workers. The flat wages trend is also intensifying the pre-crisis dynamics, which saw private sector credit rather than real wages drive growth in consumption spending. As I also noted in last week’s commentary on the 2017 Fiscal Statement – Australian government in contractionary bias when stimulus is needed – the forward estimates for fiscal outcomes provided by the Australian government are already under threat as a result of the cuts in real wages. There is no way the tax receipts will rise in line with the projections, which assumed much stronger wages and employment growth than will occur under current austerity-type fiscal settings
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                Posted in Labour costs | 6 Comments

                Why Britain should not worry about Brexit-motivated bank relocations

                On April 26, 2017, some smarta*!se journalists wrote a Bloomberg piece – The Brexit Banker Exodus Gains Momentum – with some not-so fancy graphics purporting to show where the “U.K. banking jobs might be headed” allegedly because Britain is to leave the European Union. On May 9, 2017, the increasingly terrible UK Guardian bought in on the frenzy with its article – City banks could move at least 9,000 jobs from UK due to Brexit . And so it goes. Apparently, Deutsche Bank is “leading the threatened exodus”, followed by JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs. All exemplars of virtue, not! While the threat of the ‘City’ leaving London is now used to frighten British people about Brexit, the reality is, in my view, quite different. I would be celebrating the cleaning out this infestation of unproductive enterprises, which remain one of the destructive legacies of Margaret Thatcher and, later, New Labour and its so called ‘light touch regulation’.
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                  Posted in Britain, UK Economy | 22 Comments

                  Australia’s Overseas Aid cuts reveal a nation that has lost its spirit

                  In last week’s fiscal statement (aka ‘the budget’), the Australian government decided to make the poorest citizens in the world, including those living in close proximity to our shores, the target of its austerity mania. It decided to increase Overseas Development Aid (ODA) to match the inflation rate until 2018 and then freeze that contribution for the next two years after that. Effectively cutting real aid over the next four years at a time it forecasts strong growth in total national income. The Government claimed it was just a “pause” and follow several years of cuts in absolute levels of aid. The austerity is not only hampering growth in Australia and maintaining elevated levels of labour underutilisation, but, it is also revealing how mean we are as a nation. As one of the wealthiest nations in the world (currently we are ranked 2nd behind Switzerland for per capita wealth), we are now cutting into the resources we extend to poorer nations in our region as part of a mindless quest for surplus. The problem is not only the economic idiocy that underpins these cuts. The other, perhaps larger problem, of which the first is a symptom is that, as a nation, Australia is losing its moral compass. In this neo-liberal era, we have become an increasingly ugly nation – lacking in generosity to each other and to outsiders. We engage in criminal behaviour (indefinitely detaining refugees in prisons on remote islands; engaging in illegal invasions of foreign nations, etc) and punish poverty rather than do everything we can to reduce it and provide the equal opportunities to all that we so often congratulate ourselves as being champions of. We are a mean-spirited nation these days and an international pariah. There is no pride in holding an Australian passport. It is easy to live here if you have money. The climate is good, the beaches great, plenty of open terrain, great sport – but our national spirit is disappearing.
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                    Posted in Economics | 12 Comments

                    The Weekend Quiz – May 13-14, 2017 – answers and discussion

                    Here are the answers with discussion for this Weekend’s Quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of modern monetary theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.
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                      Posted in Saturday quiz | 5 Comments